Media discourse can be widely understood as any way in which the media — including news outlets, publishers, and others — frames certain issues and generates discussions among the public. In some sense, all media furthers some sort of discourse simply as a function of its essential nature. Another way of saying this is that media wouldn’t be media if it didn’t disseminate information with a certain slant or through a particular lens. Breaking down the specific types can be a challenge, but it’s often easiest to think about in terms of broad categories. Type of publication is one; different media outlets publish and disseminate their work in different ways, from printed volumes and online blogs to radio and television broadcasts. Differentiating based on written or spoken media is sometimes also instructive. Other scholars look at discourse in terms of its effects on larger society, or study it based on the guiding principles or larger ethos of its reporters and participants. Much of the discussion is necessarily regional, and depends a lot on the prevailing customs and traditions of both the media players and the information consumers.
Understanding Discourse Generally
Discourse itself may be understood in a few different ways. For one, it may simply refer to the manner in which individuals and groups communicate. On a deeper level, though, it can symbolize the systems of thoughts and beliefs that determine how individuals understand and interpret the world. Media-driven discourse in the first sense would include the various outlets that individuals in the media use, such as newspapers and magazines, television, radio, and the Internet. If discourse is understand as the beliefs that guide media output, then principles like objectivity or ideological bias might describe it best.
Individuals filter the events and local happenings through various lenses; some of this is determined by personal experience, but a lot of it is also driven by the manner in which the information was presented to them in the first place. This can include subtle cues or emphasis on certain details, and can even include things like tone of voice and word choice. The means of delivery is very important.
Media By Subject Area
One of the easiest ways to differentiate types of media discourse is to break them down by subject matter. Some stories or conversations might consider issues from a political viewpoint, wherein the complex factors that constitute social decision-making are prevalent. Others might operate from a finance-based, or economic, standpoint. A different rubric is often in place for reporting on lives of popular celebrities and news of human interest appeal.
Written and Spoken Communications
In understanding media discourse as various means of communication, it’s common to break the category into two broad areas: written and spoken. Some examples of written texts include newspapers and magazines. Articles found within these publications are individual examples of discourse, and advertisements may be considered a form of as well. Radio and television, on the other hand, primarily rely on spoken speech, such as news broadcasts, though television outlets often make use of visual tactics like location shots and sited interviews.
Unconventional or Non-Traditional Discourse
Modern scholars often group online media into its own category, often under the “unconventional” or “nontraditional” banner. Some also refer to it more broadly as “new media.” The discourse that happens here is often very important in part because of how set apart it is from the more familiar forms of publication. It often happens in real time, and has the capability of transmitting out to a global audience almost instantaneously. The demand is often speed over style, and these sorts of reports often lack the careful editing and review that are hallmarks of more traditional outlets.
Online media communications frequently also welcome — and at times are driven by — participation from the wider public. This is often known as “user generated content,” and can include anything from comments to added videos and personal weigh-ins. In these sorts of scenarios the discourse is often seen as incredibly fluid, and often very much reflects the mores and sentiments of the people participating.
Effect on the Larger Society
Media discourse can also be viewed as the effect a media presentation has on larger society. Social and personal beliefs might impact the semantics, or choice of wording, of a particular article, for example. Distributors of media may similarly use factors such as tone to slant information for a particular effect on audiences. Political media often fosters discourse that favors either conservative or liberal principles based on the ideals of their reporters or the designations of their financial backers.
Many of the principles and ideals that govern how media is distributed vary from region to region. In some places, ideological groups use the media to promote a particular viewpoint. If the media outlet is more opinion oriented than fact-based, this type of discourse may be prevalent. Another type of discourse is valuing objectivity in newsgathering and dissemination, wherein media outlets relay information without prejudice or bias. This approach might present information thoroughly and with sufficient supporting evidence while dispensing of facts though to be irrelevant. In certain countries, government operatives control the media and use it as a way of influencing and shaping the views of citizens to align with what the administration either wants them to know or thinks they should believe.